The Damned – New Rose

This was the first UK punk single. It came out on 22 October 1976. Four days later I saw The Damned for the first time.

They had made their live debut on 6 July, two days after The Clash, both of them supporting The Sex Pistols. This time they were supporting Graham Parker & The Rumour.

I had just started journalism college in Harlow, and I travelled up to London to see them at the Victoria Palace Theatre with my new friend Adrian O’Dolan.

Already a punk veteran,who had been at the 100 Club’s two-day punk festival the previous month, Adrian was the only person on our course – probably the only person in Harlow – to share my passion for the emerging music revolution.

Having been there at the very start, he knew most of the bands personally. He started one of the first punk fanzines, 48 Thrills, changed his name to Adrian (a moniker he still goes by) and swiftly became my passport to punk.

We went to gigs together several times a week. This was the first.

The release of New Rose was a huge event in our world. That spoken intro – “Is she really going out with him?” – still sends a tingle up my spine, followed by that tribal drumbeat, the monstrous guitar riff and the urgent yell.

I bought the single the day it came out and I was beyond excited to see them live.

The Damned did not disappoint. The drummer, Rat Scabies, wore tartan trousers at half mast in the style of the Bay City Rollers. And a Hitler mask.

At the end of their brief, electrifying, and very very fast set, Scabies kicked the drum kit to pieces as the singer, a Dracula lookalike called Dave Vanian, carried on until he noticed no one else was on stage.

I don’t think the Graham Parker audience was very impressed;
The Damned and the other support act, The Tyla Gang, had been chosen because Parker’s manager, Dave Robinson, was also the founder of Stiff Records – and both bands were on the new indie label.

Anyway, I went back to college and cut my hair and soon started my own fanzine, Cliché. And as punk began to mushroom, I started going up to London to see gigs almost every night.

But you always remember your first most fondly.

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